H.C. Starck Solutions uses four different types of additive manufacturing for its refractory metals. These include:
Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF)
One of the most common types of metal 3D printing, L-PBF technology deposits a fine layer of metal powder over a build plate and a high-powered laser melts and solidifies subsequent metal layers into parts.
Binder jet technology distributes a fine layer of metal powder and then a jetting head deposits a binder to loosely bond the powder together. The final part is then de-binded and sintered in a furnace to achieve full density.
Much like screen printing for t-shirts, 3D screen printing uses a metal paste (metal powder with binder) that is squeegeed over a CAD defined screen. After the print is complete, the part is then de-binded and sintered to achieve full density.
Directed Energy Deposition (DED)
DED uses either metal powder or wire feedstock and a high-powered laser on a nozzle to melt and solidify metal directly onto the part, very similar to welding.
Benefits of AM
In recent years, metal additive manufacturing has gained traction because it provides many benefits when compared to subtractive manufacturing (machining) or casting/forming techniques. A few of them are listed below:
Minimal Machining/Low Material Waste
Because 3D printing makes a part “additively,” the amount of material that is consumed for the part is almost equal to the final design. This is a large contrast to traditional techniques like machining that take a block of material and the remove the unwanted areas, leaving large amounts of waste that can be strenuous to recycle and reuse.
Design Complexity/Weight Reduction
Because 3D printing creates a component layer-by-layer, complex designs like internal cooling channels, lattice designs, and organic structures can be made with minimal effort when compared to traditional machining. Some of the structures that are being 3D printed would be impossible to manufacture by any other way, and design engineers have much more freedom to design high performing parts while simultaneously reducing the amount of weight. Like the picture below, H.C. Starck Solutions has demonstrated that AM can dramatically improve the performance of tantalum heat exchangers by as much as 20X.
Lead Time Reduction
Traditional manufacturing typically calls for the use of specialized tooling, which is notorious for long lead times and additional costs. With the use of additive manufacturing, tooling is no longer needed to manufacture a part and designs can be rapidly iterated. Additionally, since complex designs can easily be manufactured, multiple parts within an assembly can by consolidated without the need for joining operations such as bolting, welding, brazing, soldering, etc. By removing those operations, AM significantly decreases lead time and skilled labor costs for a single component.
About the Author:
Faith Oehlerking is an Additive Manufacturing R&D Engineer at H.C. Starck Solutions, where she serves as the Technology Leader for Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF) development. Faith conducts parameter development and component production of AM refractory metals and works with the R&D team to continuously develop new AM solutions to serve the Medical, Aerospace, Industrial, Nuclear, and Defense markets. Prior to joining H.C. Starck Solutions, Faith was a Product Development Engineer for Formetrix Metals, a metal 3D printing start-up developing L-PBF materials for the Tool & Die industry. She received her B.S. in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.
Contact us about AM of refractory metals!
H.C. Starck Solutions’ expertise in AM methods as well as refractory metal part manufacturing makes us the ideal partner for our customers’ current applications, as well as for the development of solutions to their future challenges. Our competency in material selection, part design, process validation and full-scale manufacturing provides a leading edge in the fast-paced AM industry. With 3D printing being one of our focus growth areas, we are continuously expanding product functionality and always unlocking new refractory metal applications by taking advantage of AM design. Contact us today about your interests in refractory metal AM!